The Los Angeles Lakers struggled greatly on defense last year, and it looks as if the trend will continue this season. The team has given up over 100 points three times this preseason, and although the preseason is a time to try new things out, they must show more improvement. It could easily be a problem for them all season, and it is something that every player needs to be dialed in on. The Lakers are not good enough as a team to take nights off, and defensive effort is an area they can work on every day.
Part of the problem for the Lakers is they just do not have the defenders to form an elite defense. They have several very good offensive players, as well as a couple of explosive youngsters, but lack many true lockdown defenders. The addition of Roy Hibbert can definitely help, as he has anchored top defenses before. But he also had a lot of quality perimeter defenders, and he will need to be at his best just to make this an average unit.
Players like Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle have the quickness and athleticism to stay with opponents, and must do their part to get better. Randle may never be a rim protector, but his ability to switch screens on the perimeter could be valuable if he can develop that skill. Clarkson is an explosive player who will likely see a lot of time next to D’Angelo Russell and Kobe Bryant, meaning he will be responsible for shutting down the opposing team’s best perimeter player. He needs to develop the desire to be a good two-way player instead of just worrying about his offensive statistics.
The Lakers have some young players who could become quality defenders, such as Larry Nance Jr. and Anthony Brown. Both are long, athletic players who can guard some of the taller wings in the league. They have the opportunity to gain minutes early in their career if they show a willingness to play hard-nosed defense on top scorers. Robert Upshaw might actually have the most upside, as he is capable of being a game-changing shot blocker, but must stay focused.
It is unlikely that the Lakers will have an elite defense this year, but they can be a good unit with the right mindset. They have a good blend of youth and veterans, and Coach Byron Scott will need to make sure that he finds the right mix to put on the court. It will require a lot more effort, but it will give the team a better chance to win more games.